Friday, May 15, 2009

Another Radicalizing Experience

First, an introduction. I've had permission to post to this blog for quite awhile but have been a hesitant blogger - a combination of innate shyness and a tendency to take forever to craft a paragraph. (For example, I started this post at eleven this morning. Granted, I've stopped for a leisurely lunch and a couple of meetings, but still.) The breezy spring air and a severe lack of sleep (thanks to a new, amazing baby) have lowered my defenses. I've been a librarian for a couple years and, after a few trips through the public and community college library spheres, am happily employed at an academic library. My job duties and responsibilities are so diverse that I can only talk in terms of a typical month, not day, but by then it's all a blur. My main interests are information literacy and new issues in library automation (really).

This article came through one of the listservs this morning: Best Careers 2009: Librarian

Well, obviously, I thought when I saw it. I love being a librarian for many reasons, although I'll wax poetic about it during another post. What intrigues me are the number of reader comments discussing average salaries for librarians. They are, typically, low. It's a touchy subject. While I didn't go in to librarianship for the money, and while there are a number of rewards far greater than the salary, I suspect there are many reasons why our salaries are on the low end, not the least of which is the profession's history (and present) as being a female dominated profession. I'm the daughter of a nurse, after all. This is nothing new to me.

In today's economy, I'm thankful I have not only a job, but one I love. I try not to stay up nights engaging in "worst case scenario" thinking (this means going against my nature, but I'm working on it). But when the salary discussion comes up, I find myself thinking about my sister. She's a church musician in geographical location that doesn't have a huge demand for musicians with graduate degrees. She interviewed for a job at a church and they offered her a rate that was about half what she (and her professional organization) charges for her talents. In a move that made me even more proud of her than I was before, she told them she could not in good conscience take the job for less than what she would normally charge. "One of my jobs as a teacher of other musicians is to advocate for our profession - that we are taken seriously and paid a fair wage," she told me. "I can't tell one thing to my students and then take a job that pays me far less than I'm worth." Amen, sister!

I'm not faulting our profession, and those who have gone before, for not advocating enough for librarians. And I know first-hand that sometimes you need to take the low paying job. Or that the funds just aren't there, even if the powers that be want to pay you more. But my sister's experience made me wake up to the fact that I have a responsibility to the profession and to future librarians. I need to advocate for fair wages for librarians in my community and beyond, if the opportunities present themselves. And maybe I need to seek out those opportunities more. (This probably will be more effective than my previous plan of becoming Bruce Springsteen's personal librarian.)

They say that motherhood is a radicalizing experience. It's been that way for me, so far. (Look for future posts on why the heck there's no day care at my institution.) For me, librarianship is too.

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